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How porn star Courtney Trouble is starting a queer revolution

Courtney Trouble’s feminist work finding mainstream recognition

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Nothing but trouble: Courtney is a one-woman show in the porn industry.
Photo: Rae Threat
Lynn Comella

It’s the morning of the AVN Awards, and I’m sitting in bed with queer porn star, director and AVN nominee Courtney Trouble. Her hair is slightly tousled, and it looks like she’s still waking up. I am too, so I’m happy to see that she’s ordered room service, specifically a pot of coffee. Hanging in the closet is the dress she’ll wear to the awards show later that night, and on the bed next to me are a pair of red suede Mary Janes that look like they’ve been designed specifically for a walk down the red carpet.

Trouble, 30, received three AVN nominations this year, two in the category of Best Alternative Website for Indie Porn Revolution (formerly No Fauxxx) and queerporntube.com, a site she started for amateur submissions, homemade porn and free queer porn clips for anyone who wants to watch. She also received a nod in the category of Best Web Premiere for Live Sex Show, a film that’s perhaps best known for its fisting scene with Nina Hartley and Jizz Lee.

2013 marks the fourth year in a row that Trouble has been nominated for an AVN award, and regardless of whether she wins (she didn’t), it’s a big deal to her that her work is recognized by the mainstream adult industry. Trouble has been blazing a trail in the world of feminist and queer porn for the past decade, and, in the process, trying to set a new standard for what’s considered sexy and what counts as “normal.” Her work is size-friendly, race-friendly and trans-friendly. Her films eroticize what is often fetishized, and feature groups of people—not to mention queer desires—that are largely underrepresented, if not entirely absent, in mainstream porn.

Trouble got her first camera when she was 8 years old and spent much of high school and college in the darkroom. When she was 19 she applied to be a model for the alt-porn website suicidegirls.com and was rejected after her photos “showed I was too fat for them.”

More Trouble

The rejection was a turning point for Trouble. Was she going to try to adhere to a standard of beauty and desirability that didn’t reflect who she was, or would she try to create a new mold? “Instead of fitting into alt porn, I made an alternative to alternative porn, where you didn’t have to pretend that you were straight or be super-slim.”

Trouble, who has directed 14 feature-length films, is part of a burgeoning queer porn scene in the Bay Area. She is a one-woman show, the epitome of a DIY outfit. She performs, directs, shoots, edits, runs her various websites and does all of her own marketing and PR. She compares her work—and its appeal to her fan base—to the Riot Grrrl movement of the early ’90s. For her, making porn is political, artistic and deeply personal.

Trouble’s latest release is Lesbian Curves, a film that blends the genres of BBW (big, beautiful women) porn and lesbian porn. It’s the first film that Trouble has made that features only lesbian sex. “I felt like lesbian and girl/girl porn only uses a certain type of woman—either white and preppy and thin with big tits, or white and hipster and thin with small tits.”

With this film, Trouble wants to expand the perception of what lesbian sex looks like by showcasing a variety of body shapes and sizes. According to Trouble, the film is “a lesbian sex series that features the bodies, and brains, of real queer performers, each empowered in their own bodies, regardless of the size of those bodies … It’s the first thing I’ve made that could translate easily to a mainstream audience, so I’m excited and curious anticipating how far this film will go.”

As an artist, Trouble is a firm believer that risks are rewarded. You don’t get anywhere, she argues, by sitting on a couch and listening to what others tell you to do. “If you don’t go out there and make what you need to see [and] if you can’t fully realize what you are doing when you are doing it, it just becomes more of the formulaic porn.”

Trouble’s fans seem to agree. She has a loyal following, and, according to her, it’s not necessarily a queer-only audience. “I have a really big fan base that will buy anything I put out because they know it’s from the heart for me—and those are people who don’t buy mainstream porn at all: queer people, college students, feminists, women, couples, older people, larger people, trans people, people of color. I have an incredibly built-in audience that mainstream porn will never have access to, one that’s hungry for the kind of porn I make.”

And importantly, it’s an audience that prizes, and is willing to pay for, her products and the “street cred” that owning a copy of Trouble’s latest DVD conveys. “People collect my movies,” she tells me. “They don’t just torrent off the Internet and throw it in the trash bin when they are done jerking off. People who buy my DVDs keep them on their bookshelves. They put them next to their bed when they have a new date to show off the fact that they know of this cool porn.

“My fans revel in my obscurity,” she laughs.

Lynn Comella is a Women’s Studies professor at UNLV.
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